Tightening Security After Navy Yard Tragedy Becomes a Balancing Act

Charles S. Clark, Government Executive
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Charles S. Clark, Government Executive
Dec. 18, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

Les­sons from Septem­ber’s Wash­ing­ton Navy Yard shoot­ings should not in­clude ex­pand­ing met­al-de­tect­or searches, build­ing-se­cur­ity ex­perts said on Tues­day.

But next steps ought to in­volve im­proved train­ing of guards and heightened mon­it­or­ing of agency com­pli­ance with re­com­men­ded risk-mit­ig­a­tion pro­ced­ures.

Of­fi­cials from the Home­land Se­cur­ity and De­fense de­part­ments de­fen­ded the pro­gress that’s been made on build­ing se­cur­ity gov­ern­mentwide since the in­cid­ent, in which men­tally troubled con­tract­or Aaron Alex­is brought weapons in­to Navy Yard Build­ing 197 and murdered 12 co-work­ers.

“In the af­ter­math, it is only nat­ur­al that we won­der if all people en­ter­ing a fed­er­al fa­cil­ity — even em­ploy­ees — should be screened in some way,” said Sen­at­or Tom Carp­er ( D-Del.), chair­man of the Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity and Gov­ern­ment­al Af­fairs Com­mit­tee. “Should we — to bor­row a phrase from Ron­ald Re­agan — ‘trust, but veri­fy?’”

Carp­er framed the hear­ing by ask­ing how agen­cies de­term­ine the threats to their spe­cif­ic fa­cil­it­ies; wheth­er agen­cies are prop­erly as­sess­ing and pri­or­it­iz­ing the vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies; and how they are re­spond­ing to threats as they evolve.

Tough ques­tion­ing came from Sen­at­or Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who faul­ted both the in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al body ad­vising agen­cies on im­prov­ing se­cur­ity and the qual­ity of train­ing of primar­ily con­tract guards in con­front­ing act­ive shoot­ers. “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of co­ordin­a­tion and when there is, there’s not much fol­low-up,” she said. “When the pub­lic sees a uni­formed se­cur­ity guard sit­ting at a desk, there’s an aura of power” ex­cept that the guard’s cap­ab­il­it­ies and role are not clear. “It sends the wrong mes­sage to the pub­lic.”

Though loc­al com­mand­ers have the op­tion of re­quir­ing ran­dom screen­ing of people en­ter­ing a fa­cil­ity, “the draw­back to screen­ing is a neg­at­ive im­pact on mis­sion,” said Steph­en Lewis, deputy dir­ect­or for per­son­nel, in­dus­tri­al and phys­ic­al se­cur­ity policy at the Of­fice of the Un­der­sec­ret­ary of De­fense for In­tel­li­gence. “With 10,000 people com­ing in the same win­dow, there’s a dis­in­cent­ive to get­ting the work done.”

Once back­ground checks are per­formed, “you have to trust the sys­tem,” said Caitlin Durkovich, Home­land Se­cur­ity’s as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary for in­fra­struc­ture pro­tec­tion. “There are op­por­tun­ity costs and re­source im­plic­a­tions” to check­ing every­one.

Some agen­cies, such as the Trans­port­a­tion De­part­ment, already screen all em­ploy­ees, said L. Eric Pat­ter­son, dir­ect­or of the Fed­er­al Pro­tect­ive Ser­vice. “But after a back­ground check, people are trust­worthy, so I would think this through care­fully.”

In dis­cuss­ing solu­tions, wit­nesses said all agen­cies are study­ing re­sponses to act­ive shoot­ers. They poin­ted to the lim­its on train­ing of guards, who, dur­ing a crisis, fo­cus on shield­ing and evac­u­at­ing em­ploy­ees but de­pend on loc­al law en­force­ment un­der vary­ing state laws to pur­sue an at­tack­er. They are per­mit­ted to con­front a live shoot­er on sight but can­not leave their posts in pur­suit, which re­quires find­ing “a happy me­di­um” between re­spond­ing and keep­ing se­cur­ity of­ficers safe, Pat­ter­son said. “There are thou­sands of build­ings, and we don’t have re­sources to put law en­force­ment in every build­ing.”

Durkovich said gov­ern­mentwide pro­tec­tion is a “risk-based pro­cess.” Not all build­ings are the same, she said, not­ing that strategies dif­fer for urb­an versus rur­al build­ings and, for ex­ample, for build­ings that have child care cen­ters or his­tor­ic des­ig­na­tions.

She ac­know­ledged un­der ques­tion­ing that com­pli­ance with re­com­mend­a­tions of the in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al pan­el set up after the 1993 bomb­ing of the fed­er­al build­ing in Ok­lahoma City has been left to the agen­cies them­selves.

Pat­ter­son said his agency has met six of 13 Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice re­com­mend­a­tions for im­prove­ments in train­ing and com­mu­nic­a­tion with staff. GAO ana­lyst Mark Gold­stein, however, test­i­fied that FPS “con­tin­ues to lack ef­fect­ive man­age­ment con­trols to en­sure its guards have met its train­ing and cer­ti­fic­a­tion re­quire­ments.”

Lewis said since the Navy Yard at­tack, the Pentagon has con­duc­ted “in­tern­al re­views of gaps and de­fi­cien­cies and shared oth­er agency best prac­tices.” He ex­pressed prom­ise in a new “en­ter­prise-wide” tool called the Iden­tity Man­age­ment En­ter­prise Ser­vices Ar­chi­tec­ture that provides real-time vet­ting of in­di­vidu­als re­quir­ing un­es­cor­ted ac­cess against mul­tiple data­bases.

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from Gov­ern­ment Ex­ec­ut­ive. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

This art­icle was pub­lished in Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire, which is pro­duced in­de­pend­ently by Na­tion­al Journ­al Group un­der con­tract with the Nuc­le­ar Threat Ini­ti­at­ive. NTI is a non­profit, non­par­tis­an group work­ing to re­duce glob­al threats from nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al, and chem­ic­al weapons.

What We're Following See More »
FIRST TIME SINCE COLD WAR
Nuclear Bombers Preparing to Go Back on 24-Hour Alert
51 minutes ago
THE LATEST

"The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991...Putting the B-52s back on alert is just one of many decisions facing the Air Force as the U.S. military responds to a changing geopolitical environment that includes North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear arsenal, President Trump’s confrontational approach to Pyongyang, and Russia’s increasingly potent and active armed forces."

Source:
TRUMP’S ATTORNEY WAS SET TO TESTIFY ON WEDNESDAY
Senate Intel Postpones Testimony by Cohen
2 days ago
THE LATEST
AMENDMENT WOULD HAVE PREVENTED CONSIDERATION
Senate Rejects Effort to Nix SALT Tax Changes
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."

Source:
INTERVIEWED BY COMMITTEE STAFF
Lewandowski Meets with Senate Intelligence Committee
3 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on Capitol Hill for a closed-door interview with the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lewandowski is the latest senior official in Trump's orbit who has met with the committee as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign."

Source:
FISHING EXPEDITION
Some Members Seek to Wrap Up Russia Investigations by Year’s End
4 days ago
THE LATEST

"A growing number of key Republicans are sending this message to the leaders of the congressional committees investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians: Wrap it up soon. In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login